Almost everything wrong with modern cinema is exhibited in the first five minutes of this 2016 loose remake. The bad guy (Peter Sarsgaard) arrives like Lex Luthor to plague a town, the surrounding land of which he needs to rape, er, mine. He tortures a child, burns a church, shoots an unarmed man in front of his wife, and then, one of his men throws an axe into the back of a fleeing woman churchgoer. That’s what the filmmakers believe is necessary for you to give a shit.
It ain’t nearly enough.
It’s an execrable film. The score is excessive and deafening. The western garb is better suited to a Manhattan runway. The heroes escape no demons, and no one ever misses a shot. Everyone is twirling a gun or a knife or a mustache. Marvel movies have more depth and gravitas. Video games carry greater danger.
The film is plotted by a moron. In a seminal scene, Chris Pratt (aka, Billy Rocks, I shit you not) takes all of the money from a poker table, yet within 15 minutes, he miraculously does not have the five dollars to buy back his own horse. Thus, he is enticed by Denzel Washington to save the town! He really needs that horse.
Speaking of Pratt, he is fundamentally, constitutionally unserious and insubstantial. He’s perfect for light, wiseacre comedy. He can’t do much else and when he tries the hard stare, Lord, is it painful.
Five more dummies sign up for the suicide mission because, well, just because. I suppose some inducement comes in the form of a frontier gal whose husband was shot in front of her. It is her pitiful story that serves to secure Washington‘s agreement to save the town. Thankfully, she shows cleavage throughout, even though she tells Washington, “I am just a simple farm woman.“
After Washington and Pratt, we get syrupy Southerner Ethan Hawke (swear to God, his name is Goodnight Robicheaux, and he had “23 confirmed kills at Antietam” – ha ha ha ha ha), Vincent D’Onofrio (he comes off like Steinbeck’s Lenny had he become a bounty hunter), the inevitable Indian (Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest, who is mystical, perfectly painted and manicured, and accompanied by his own tom-tom score), and two other total nobodies, all of whom join up for similarly unexplained reasons. The third thing Washington says to Red Harvest is, “we go to fight wicked men. Probably we all die.“ The Indian wordlessly and naturally joins up. Again, Washington did bring the gal with the ample bosom to this recruitment meeting. It is all I can figure.
Wait. First, Red Harvest (which upon reflection sounds like a maize-based cereal rather than a fearsome warrior) cuts the heart out of a deer and makes Washington eat it. Then he joins up. And later, kills a bad guy Indian, to whom he says, “You’re a disgrace.” That’s the Indian way.
Of course, we learn in the end that Washington has a personal score to settle. Because Sarsgaard had men rape and murder his homesteader mother and sisters. Which makes the recruitment effort by the buxom farm woman superfluous, as Washington should have been spending his every waking moment hunting Sarsgaard. Or, Washington is just kind of a flighty pussy.
The re-creation of the famous James Coburn knife scene is nothing less than an abortion, but thankfully, it is the only thing the filmmakers try and lift from the original, and accordingly, the only thing defensible about this movie.